Windsor opens new high-tech, super-strong EOC and fire hall
Windsor opens new high-tech, super-strong EOC and fire hall
September 22, 2017
The Windsor Star
Article by: Brian Cross

Windsor has a new fire hall and emergency operations centre that can be relied upon to operate even during the most trying circumstances.

Windsor has a striking new $5.2-million fire hall and emergency operations centre, built tough enough to withstand floods, lightning strikes and earthquakes.
Mayor Drew Dilkens and Windsor fire Chief Stephen Laforet helped cut the ribbon Thursday to officially open Emergency Operations Centre and Fire Hall No. 6 at 1587 Provincial Rd.
The fire hall is the third of four new halls built as part of a plan to strategically relocate stations to best cover the city’s changing population. This one replaces old No. 6, originally built as a temporary hall adjacent to Windsor Airport.
Laforet told reporters that fire halls should be located at the centre of a circle so you can reach any location within that circle in four or five minutes. Being located next to the airport land turned the circle into a semi-circle.
“Now we’re able to respond in all directions, rather than just to the west,” said Laforet.
Dilkens said the new No. 6 will provide better coverage for people living in South Windsor and Ward 9, an area that includes large swaths of mostly farmland south of the airport. But the new 3,000-square-foot EOC will benefit the entire city, serving as an gathering place for decision makers — from police, fire, city hall, ambulance, Enwin, Union Gas, and other businesses and agencies — coping with major emergencies.
The old EOC is a 1970s-era quonset hut behind the downtown headquarters that was maybe a few hundred square feet and “so, so cramped,” according to Deputy Chief Andrea DeJong, who led reporters on a tour of the new facilities. “This is such an improvement over what we had.” 
“We know in the not even three years of my term as mayor, we’ve had to use that EOC for real-life issues three times,” said Dilkens, referring to two disastrous floods and the 2016 tornado. The old EOC, he said, had a tough time accommodating all the new technology and people required to handle those emergencies.
“This facility is designed with the best technologies, it’s designed to accommodate all the people who need to be in the room providing information, feeding information, and then looking at the information and making decisions in real time.”
The focal point of the EOC is a spacious main room featuring rows of work stations for staff and panels of screens to show feeds from news websites, camera feeds from more than 70 cameras located throughout the city, weather sites and many other sources of data. Any of these feeds can be routed to a big main screen, or to screens in the adjacent policy room, where city managers and other leaders can meet and make high-level decisions. There are also two breakout rooms, where smaller teams of staff can congregate to work on plans.
These rooms will largely be used only during these big emergencies — anything from big industrial fires to weather emergencies like the floods. People using them will also be able to use the fire hall amenities located down the hall, such as the kitchen, bathrooms and lounge. The EOC and the fire hall — which will be staffed with one truck and a crew of four or five — have a total area of 13,800 square feet.
The mayor said in a news release that the city’s been able to “rise and respond” to any emergency. “But with this facility and these tools in this location, our emergency responses will be even stronger.”
Though the fire hall’s been in operation for about a month, Thursday was the opening day for the EOC. The building is considered a “post-disaster” structure, meaning it’s built to withstand earthquakes and floods. It has its own storm water retention basin, a backup generator and is designed to handle 100-year rainfalls.
The mayor said the station’s location on Provincial Road — a very busy road with only two lanes and gravel shoulders — is OK in terms of response times, but there are plans to widen and improve the road, much like Cabana is being widened now.
“Certainly the traffic we see, with Lowe’s and Costco and all the other stores out here, it’s certainly something that needs to be done,” Dilkens said. He said an environmental assessment is already completed. When the project will go forward is up to council.
Next to open in five or six weeks is station No. 5, currently under construction at Northwood Street and Daytona Avenue, which will replace the station on Cabana Road. In recent years, the city has spent around $4 million each to build No. 2 on Milloy Street near Ford Test Track Park and No. 7 on Matthew Brady Boulevard near Lauzon Road.
The city is also facing replacing Station No. 4 on College Avenue at a new location, though it’s supposed to be paid for by the Ambassador Bridge as one of the conditions for the
Canadian government granting it a permit to build a replacement bridge. City officials still need to sit down with bridge officials and work out a deal.